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AsanRN AsanRN (New Member)

Coworker violated HIPPA

HIPAA   (3,915 Views 31 Comments)
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What would you do?

I work in an Infectious Disease Clinic. I am newer to this role. My nephew, who is gay, called me one day at work to tell me he was diagnosed with HIV. I was able to get him in right away. All of my coworkers were supportive. I was very appreciative. I work with a friend that I have known for years. Well, my nephew kept coming back to the clinic, weekly. I asked him why he was coming, and he said, "For some shots, it's no big deal." I got the sense he didn't want to tell me, so I didn't press the issue. I started to think, "Oh wow, he probably has syphilis." I did not, and would not, ever look at his medical record. Not only would it be a complete violation of trust between my nephew and I, I also figured they would be watching my activity since I work there and because of the sensitivity of the issue.

i casually mentioned to my friend and coworker that I thought he had syphilis. She asked me, "What makes you think that?" I said, "Well, he keeps coming down here for shots, as he calls it. I figured that would be the only reason." She said, "Yeah, he does. I saw it." Then she looked at her computer! I was dumbfounded. I would never turn her in or tell on her. However, my feelings are hurt. He's my family. Even though she wronged me, I am worried about her being found out and losing her job. I guess I am telling you this for emotional support. Also, please don't become complacent in your practice. Don't feel as if you have a right to know something. Don't do this to your friends or coworkers. When you are the victim of this, it hurts. What do you guys think?

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HIPAA is a federal law. Violating it is not a trifling matter. You should also consider the possible implications for yourself if it is discovered that you knew about a violation and did not report it.

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Maybe your co-worker thought you were fishing for answers or validation. That being said, she shouldn't have confirmed your suspision. Some people may have interpreted your casual questioning actual questioning. Your co-worker probably should have answered - These are questions you should be asking him. You asking your co-worker and they way you answered may have appeared to her confirmation of your assessment.

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Now let me ask you this:

If you are concerned about your nephew's privacy and potential violations of trust between you and your nephew regarding the sensitive nature of his situation, why on earth would you bring this up as a topic with a coworker? Frankly I think your doing so is even worse because he is a patient of the clinic. He's not just your nephew, he's your nephew and a patient at your clinic for whom your coworkers need to care.

I'm not defending the inappropriate disclosure, I'm asking about your motivations. There are only two possible motivations. Only two. You either hoped someone would violate HIPAA and give you the answer so that you could both have the answer and be able to blame someone else for having it, or you simply wanted to test your good friend to see whether she would compromise your nephew's privacy when put in a really uncomfortable position, and you chose to do that by violating your nephew's trust.

If you cared about your nephew's trust, you wouldn't have taken the chance with this conversation. [if I believed in reporting every little thing, which I don't], this coworker should have reported you for "fishing for PHI" instead of responding to your question, but you didn't help things by talking about it as if you already knew the answer.

This is honestly one of the more odd things I've read here lately.

Edited by JKL33

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When you are the victim of this, it hurts. What do you guys think?

I think that if I was your nephew I would be PO'ed that you were discussing my medical issues with a coworker.

She was certainly not right in what she did, but that does not excuse what you did either (your HIPAA violation?). For you to talk to someone else about his private medical issues is an incredible violation of the trust that he put in you and the clinic. There is nothing about this situation that makes me feel any sorry for you and you have no reason to be hurt. How dare you claim that she wronged you, when you are just as wrong!

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There's a number of things going on here that concern me, but mostly I agree with JKL. If you wanted to keep your distance in a professional sense, why bring him up when your "friend" was using her computer? What did you want her to say? I mean, you put yourself in her place, how would you have responded?

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You are the victim? Seriously? You were talking about your nephew behind his back. You were fishing for confirmation on your suspicions. You also imply that you told your coworkers about your nephew's HIV status. Your actions, in my opinion, were more egregious that your coworker's.

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What's with all these posts lately where someone is emotionally devastated because someone else was wronged? I don't get it.

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She shouldn't have told you, even if she may have thought you had his blessing to know due to your relationship with him and the fact that you got him into the clinic.

However, you shouldn't have been digging for answers either. If you wanted to know, you should have asked your nephew...and given that he had already told you the shots were "no big deal", he kind of made it clear what he wanted you to know about it.

So you were both in the wrong, IMO.

Whether you want to report this is up to you...however, keep in mind that this scenario doesn't exactly paint you in a good light.

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What's with all these posts lately where someone is emotionally devastated because someone else was wronged? I don't get it.

While not being perfect angelic beings themselves...

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You're talking about his business with a stranger (to him) about a private matter and SHE wronged YOU!!??

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Is there a way he could be seen at a different ID practice? It was a HIPAA violation but YOU were wrong to have asked.

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